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Icefield Sonnets - with voice

Icefield Sonnets (2005)

for soprano, baritone, violin, cello, piano and percussion

Listen to excerpt:

Icefield Sonnets - excerpt

Instrumentation:  soprano, baritone, violin, cello, piano, and percussion



I. Cold is a cell

II. Glass is a place

III. North is a notion


Duration:  14 minutes


Icefield Sonnets was commissioned by the Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music and was premiered by them in January 2006. Based on the poetry of Anthony Hawley, each poem in the set speaks of the notion of “north,” specifically in the winter months, and it was my aim to capture some of the different moments of “coldness,” from quiet stillness to more violent activity.  I had previously written a work for string quartet by the same name, inspired by this same set of poems, and when this new commission came, I knew I wanted to set the poems for voices (and the music here is different from the string quartet version).  The first song is for soprano, the second for baritone, and the third brings the two singers together. 


-- Pierre Jalbert




Icefield Sonnets by Anthony Hawley


1.                                             2.                                             3.

Cold is a cell                            Glass is a place                       North is a notion

In which one is allowed          From which to view                   And a motion tundra’s


To walk around the lake         Withinwithout                            Stilled grammar                            

And think of walking               Say hellogoodbye                     Or the beauty of scant


Or defend the logic                 In the same line                        And drowned out

Of glacial water                      Or move across                         Reverberate


Sing the oval                          An icy surface                           Throughout the town

With a skate’s blade               Inches forward                          Built in planks round


Habits of its shape                 Years witness                            About the river forks

The way a lip                          Little change                             The mouth’s glissade


Leaves an imprint                   Requires a fixed gaze               In which direction

On glass a trace                     To observe glacial                     Doesn’t matter


Air enough just                       Motion the elk                            There’s north enough

To shake the frame                Make stirrings                            To keep lips frozen

© 2016 Pierre Jalbert, Icefield Field Sonnets for soprano, baritone, violin, cello, piano, and percussion.

Photo:  Julia Jalbert​

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